Speech to the Traditional Britain Group conference
by The Editor
Stuart Millson discusses the historical 2016 Brexit referendum and its ramifications for the United Kingdom.
By Stuart Millson,
Saturday 22nd October 2016 at The Royal Over-Seas League.
In the presence of The Rt. Hon. The Lord Sudeley.
My Lord President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me enormous satisfaction to be able to address the Traditional Britain Group, in the year in which 17.4 million of our fellow countrymen voted to restore their country’s sovereign law-making power, nationhood and prosperity in the historic 23rd June referendum. I can recall in 1993 – the year after we had lost the battle over John Major’s Maastricht Treaty – Enoch Powell still remaining calm, optimistic and resolute, was convinced that Britain would one day re-emerge as an independent nation: “I believe the people value, still value their independence.” For those of us who were active anti-EU campaigners in the 1980s and ‘90s – who answered The Sun newspaper’s call to assemble in public places across the country in order to hurl invective against the then Brussels bogeyman, Jacques Delors; and who campaigned in the 1992 General Election in Cheltenham and other constituencies for what was then known as the Anti-Federalist League, or Anti-Federal Europe – we could never have foreseen the victory that has now come. Leaving the EU was a fantasy, a “what if?” scenario to be discussed late at night in the bar after meetings.
But Enoch was right. It has taken many years to arrive at this great moment – and along the way we have had to put up with a bullying from the Europhile establishment and a propaganda war of such deception that it almost seemed as though famine and World War lll would come the moment we left the EU. But in the end, the British people saw through the EU mirage and by a majority of about one million, the Referendum was won.
A British army of disenchanted voters, from the unregarded towns of the old industrial North and Midlands, to the fishing villages of Cornwall and Kent, decided that they no longer wanted their country to be shackled to a foreign political arrangement. First, Sunderland – the Leave voters cheering as the North East avenged the destruction of its fisheries industry. Then, Basildon – the shouts of “goodbye Brussels” ringing out loud and clear from the scene at the count. And then countless other places, from South Wales, mid-Wales, Doncaster, Dorset: Kipling’s “uncounted folk” made their stand. Or were they G.K. Chesterton’s “the people of England who have not spoken yet…”? As the broadcasters (David Dimbleby for the BBC, Robert Peston for ITV) turned pale in their referendum studios as the Brexit majority edged toward the 16 million-plus finishing line, it became clear that nearly half a century of British incarceration was at its end. Sadly, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain – although I wonder if the Remain camp has ever considered that many of its supporters were probably lukewarm about the EU – mild, passive, semi-Eurosceptics who just thought it might be better for Britain to stay put, “not to rock the boat”. Comparatively few Remainers, I would say, were dedicated Brussels and Euro-enthusiasts. And there must have been plenty of worried voters in Scotland, who decided to opt for Remain, fearful of the SNP using the result to engineer another divisive secessionist campaign.
As you would expect, our opponents, variously described as “Remoaners”, “Remainiacs” or as I like to call them, Remainders – have spent the last four or so months fighting a heavy rearguard action against the vote. For Tim Farron MP, the leader of the Liberal (so-called) Democrats, the result was like a personal injury – an overturning of everything he believed in, which must be for Mr. Farron that Jean Claude Juncker knows best. On the day after the vote, Mr. Farron stated: “I refuse to live in the Britain of Nigel Farage” – missing the point that 17.4 million of us, not just Nigel Farage – refuse any longer to live in the Europe of Angela Merkel, insane fisheries laws and quotas, government from the European Central Bank and the unelected European Commission. Farron’s words were just part of a post-referendum howling chorus, which often verged upon hysteria, as the truth that Britain would be leaving the EU began to set in. Shortly after the vote, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, who was to have attended a regular EU meeting of leaders, did not board the Eurostar train: Britain was no longer in attendance. I can remember listening to the BBC Radio newsreaders who announced this story: they sounded as though they were close to tears. (However, and I was slightly surprised by this, the new Prime Minister did attend the European summit this week, which was disappointing. I do hope that the catering was up to its usual lavish standards.)
Meanwhile, on BBC Radio 4 – essentially, The Guardian on the radio, the Saturday Any Answers programme saw caller after caller (probably all from Camden) taking to the airwaves to say how horrified they were; that we had been deceived and so forth – and five minutes were even given over to one young man, a student, who really was close to tears as he informed the Any Answers host that “his future had been taken away from him” and that he could “no longer go to his parents for lunch as they were all for Brexit and he couldn’t face them”. As the programme continued, the host began to tell us how an online poll, calling for a second referendum, was gaining huge support. A running commentary on its latest level of support ran throughout the programme.
In Parliament Square, a protest march – of people carrying Euro-flags, and their faces decorated with the yellow and blue banner colours of the EU – shuffled past the statues of British statesmen and the Palace of Westminster – the very “mother of parliaments” which for so long had been subservient to EU law. Pity the poor individual who carried the placard, scrawled on a torn-off piece of cardboard box: “Can’t live without the EU.” Interestingly enough, the “young” people on this march – mainly the deracinated metropolitan non-industrial workforce – took the line which was expressed on Radio 4, that a younger generation had been denied jobs, prosperity, a future by the Brexit vote. The marchers, however, did not have a great deal to say about the 30-40 per cent youth unemployment in the Eurozone countries of Spain, Italy and Southern France; the 70 per cent youth unemployment in Greece; and the almost complete crushing of that country by austerity and repayment conditions imposed by Mrs. Merkel and her EU “institutions”. And how interesting, too, that the Remain side – which sported a red, white and blue colour scheme in their referendum literature, suddenly brought out all their Euro-flags for their marches and public fits. But nobody was really fooled by what they actually stood for.
The Referendum caused, as we know, a change in the fortunes of politicians and political parties which could not have been predicted: the fall and destruction of David Cameron and his Cabinet – the removal to the backbenches of Michael Gove, seen by many as the intellectual mover and shaker of the Leave campaign, the stepping down (for the time being) of Nigel Farage, and most curiously of all the emergence of Theresa May – a “reluctant Remainer” – as the new Prime Minister, the deliverer of Brexit, the new Boadicea, the politician who, at the Tory conference to huge cheers, pledged Britain to the course of independent nationhood – a repudiation of all that the Tory party – or “the nasty party” as it once was described – had stood for during our 40 years of Common Market/EEC/European Community/European Union membership.
Now – Gregory Lauder-Frost asked me to speak about the impact of Brexit, and its importance from a national or nationalist perspective. I can certainly do that. As Professor Alan Sked, the founder of UKIP, argued in The Daily Telegraph during the campaign: “It is normal for a nation to govern itself.” So Brexit is a statement of national self-determination; a nation that has emerged from a comatose condition and delusion; a fog of 40 years’ duration; a slow decline from real nation, to province of a European Union. And we have now awoken from this coma. But could Brexit also be seen from an internationalist perspective – a repudiation of a closed-off, monolithic European superstate which is itself the enemy of true internationalism? Think back to 1992: it was the Danes who first voted against the Maastricht Treaty – the first spanner to be thrown into the EU machinery. Then in 1993, the French – although narrowly endorsing Maastricht – registered a 49 per cent vote against further EU integration – France, supposedly, the most pro-European country on the continent. Today, some 40 per cent of the Dutch people are demanding a rethink and a referendum on their membership of the EU, and in Austria and Germany, large numbers of voters are attracted to alternative Eurosceptic parties and ideas.
The French Front National is even talking about a Frexit movement, breaking away from the cosmopolitan leftism and political correctness of the EU – building upon Jean-Marie Le Pen’s old idea, and I quote, of a “French France in a European Europe” – in other words, a looser association of real European nations, the “Europe des patries”. Brexit has given not just Europe’s offshore islanders a chance to re-adjust our course: it has provided an impetus to all, across Europe and across the world, who reject the tired old, we-know-best globalist mafia and who now seek national autonomy and cultural authenticity. Brexit means for me, not just British sovereignty, but a new Europe of electorates, not elites.
Britain’s disengagement from the European Union, at present, resembles the motion of a gigantic oil tanker, slowing down at sea and taking at least ten miles in order to do so; or – a liner gradually moving away from the quayside, the various ropes and chains slowly being brought in, the vessel, moving several feet only, then a few feet again, but still, nevertheless, moving in the right direction. Even if the much-famed and talked-about Article 50 – the instrument by which a state leaves the EU – is invoked in March next year, it will still take, or so we are told, many months and years for Britain’s escape from the shadow of the EU leviathan to be completed. It is perhaps worth recalling that, in 1972, when Edward Heath took us in to the original European “Common Market” (without a vote of confidence from the British people, I might add) the process was seemingly achieved overnight – with very little consideration paid – in fact none – to the existing trade arrangements which we had with our very own single market: North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, over at Whitehall, the Department for EU Exit under the charismatic leadership of David Davis is, at last, making strides. Apart from the installation of coffee machines and telephones, a departmental Twitter account has been set up, informing people in the twittersphere of all the good prospects which are before us, and it seems that there is much anticipation from the world of science, technology and manufacturing of the additional benefits which a Britain liberated from sausage standardisation laws will enjoy. Interestingly, the Eurosceptic Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, in one of his articles for The Daily Telegraph, noted that large international pharmaceutical conglomerates which predicted economic disaster if we embarked on the EU exit strategy, miraculously announced a £600 million investment in the United Kingdom; a similar about-turn to the International Monetary Fund, which now says that the British economy, far from becoming a wasteland, is in fact thriving and booming, especially when compared to the Eurozone – that supposed economic and political Shangri-la. Not – we trust – an economic Shanghai, as I doubt that any of us – despite the new pursuit of international trade – want to jump out of the Brussels frying pan and into the Beijing fire.
I have often wondered about the triggering of Article 50: I have in my mind’s eye an image of a control panel in a bunker deep under Whitehall, with a button marked in red… “Article 50” – perhaps even situated nextdoor to the button which will launch the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons. We hope that Mrs. May or David Davis will trigger the right button when the time comes.
But where does this situation now leave the European Union? I believe that the present situation in which the EU finds itself is entirely of its own making. The intransigence of the Union, and its constant wish that everything and everyone must march to the tune of Brussels was its undoing as far as Britain was concerned. One French Eurocrat claimed that Britain could not have “an à la carte” Europe – and this, from a representative of the nation that invented the à la carte menu. Could it have been, though, that if the EU had offered a “thus far, no further” deal – in other words, that the United Kingdom would be subject to no further intrusive laws, that we would keep the pound in perpetuity, and would have the power to opt out of laws with which we disagreed – we would still be in the European Union today? Possibly… The truth, however, is that the EU has gone beyond any reasonable constraint or moderation, or desire for reform. As Enoch Powell put it: the European Union does not aim to be a federal arrangement: it aims to be a single state. He also observed that the EU is not in the business of handing powers back to the national members, but of sucking more power, more wealth from them, in order to create the single political and economic entity from the Iberian coast, to the very borders of what was the old Communist Eastern bloc.
And just how European is the European Union? Its dispiriting, corporate, plate-glass façade, with its myriad directorates, committees; its political correctness and desire for a “diverse” continent, open to large-scale immigration and policed by the liberal dogmas of multiculturalism, gives the organisation a faintly sinister air. Professor Sir Roger Scruton suggested in one radio discussion a number of years ago, that he was “at one with the European ideals of high culture and serious politics”, but that such ideals were hardly what the EU stood for. I am sure that many of us here would be much more sympathetic to a European Community, whose leaders met, not in dull offices in Brussels or Berlin, but in the rather more imaginative and inspiring settings of historic chateaux, or Versailles, or castles by the Rhine. And instead of their meaningless blue and yellow banner, with its ring of stars, could the EU not have created a flag more imbued with Europe’s past glories and cultural worth – something more historic, heraldic – more genuinely European?
Brexit now offers us all a chance for a complete re-calibration and re-alignment: a new, purposeful, sovereign Britain – or so we hope – and a Europe in which the word of a cabal of bureaucratic rulers no longer holds millions of supposedly free citizens in their place. I believe that we must treasure the 23rd June referendum result – and I have to congratulate whoever it was in Her Majesty’s Government who thought of the title – the Great Repeal Bill – the legislation which, again – we hope, will enable us to jettison years of Euro-diktat in favour of British-made law. Perhaps in the future, the Great Repeal Bill will be discussed by historians in the same way in which we, today, look back at the Great Reform Bill of 1832.
The Prime Minister has promised a sensible and clear-headed Brexit, to be accomplished without undue haste and all the mistakes that might ensue from such an approach. But this should not give British or European Civil Servants the right or opportunity to prevaricate endlessly, and thus bring the whole process to a standstill. In the words of the Prime Minister, Brexit means Brexit – and we look forward to its conclusion and the restoration of democracy, both here in Britain and across the continent of Europe.
Stuart Millson, October 2016